Good news everybody!
NASA has awarded over $1 billion in grants to three private companies with the ultimate goal of returning American astronauts to the International Space Station. Ever since we retired the space shuttle last year, the U.S. has been without the means to transport our space explorers, leaving us with no other choice but to thumb rides from our Russian comrades.
But that all changed this past May, when SpaceX successfully transported cargo to the ISS and returned in one piece. In light of that success, NASA has given the green light, along with $440 million, to Elon Musk's SpaceX to develop new hardware and an emergency return system for their transport unit. Check out the video below, complete with creepy astronaut animation:
The company is scheduled to run a series of cargo missions over the next few years and expects to be carrying astronauts as soon as 2015! That's incredible, especially considering the fact that NASA has yet to finish designing, let alone actually building their own space shuttle replacement.
No one mourned the loss of the space shuttle more than me. Personally I'd love to increase NASA's budget tenfold, but that just ain't gonna happen. In the meantime, NASA has their Curiosity rover touching down on Mars next week. Check out the Atlantic's fantastic photo feature here.